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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Greenleaf, Graham --- "Smith and State Government Insurnace Commission (WA)" [1995] PrivLawPRpr 22; (1995) 2(2) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 34


Information Commissioner (WA) Decision DO2294, 5 December 1994, Freedom of Information Act 1992 (WA) - 'personal information' - 'reverse-FOI' application

Smith was a SGIO employee who had settled a worker's compensation claim against SGIO out of court. Smith was granted access by SGIO to an edited copy of a statutory declaration of a research psychologist who was a former SGIO employee who worked under Smith's supervision. Smith complained to the Information Commissioner that the SGIO had edited the

document by deleting information about the author of the document, which the author did not wish to have disclosed.

Clause 3 of Sch 1 of the FOI Act exempts from disclosure matter which would reveal personal information about an individual, unless the 'disclosure would, on balance, be in the public interest'. 'Personal information' is defined in the glossary to Sch 2

as information about an identifiable individual (in much the same terms as the Commonwealth FOI Act 1982 and Privacy Act 1988).

The Commissioner held that the deleted matter was 'personal information' as defined, as it identified the third party by name, address and other matter. As to whether disclosure would be in the public interest, the Commissioner considered it significant that the deleted matter was not personal information about Smith, so its disclosure could not support the Act's objectives concerning correction of information, and Smith had not provided any evidence to support his claim that non-disclosure would discourage out-of-court settlements. The Commissioner therefore found that disclosure of the deleted matter would not, on balance, be in the public interest.


Because of the definition of 'personal information', the Commissioner did not have to consider issues such as the capacity in which a person creates a document that the Qld Information Commissioner must consider because of the different meaning of 'personal information' that has emerged from the case law (as, for example, in Nelson and Department of Education and Logan (Third Party) (Qld) above). There is a substantial difference between the privacy aspects of the Commonwealth and WA FOI Acts on the one hand, and FOI Acts such as the Victorian, NSW and Qld Acts on the other hand.

Graham Greenleaf

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